Is it worth opening a World of Warcraft private server ?

Before we delve into the subject, you should be aware that hosting a private server is at your own risk. According to BattleNet, Private WoW servers are against the Blizzard Terms of Use and may lead to various punishments, from having your legitimate retail WoW account permanently banned to the possibility of legal action against you. While there is a very low chance of legal action against you, since 2004 there have only been roughly two known cases, ScapeGaming(WowScape) and Nostalrius, where Blizzard took strong legal actions against the server owners. In other words, it's only illegal if you get caught. I doubt Blizzard will take legal action against a person who creates a private server for personal use and never makes it public, unless their image and profit are at risk, which is not the case most of the time.

Now, is it worth opening a World of Warcraft private server nowadays? The answer is definitely YES, but is a very subjective topic depending on what are your intentions, why do you want to open a private server ? Below I'll state various reasons why it is still worth opening a private server. Considering that there is still a big player base in this game, even with the release of WoW Classic, there are still players who want to play a specific expansion but with improved mechanics and content without altering the world of Azeroth as we know it.

Create a Private Server for Learning purpose

Operating a private server involves a lot of coding. Over the years, I managed to learn programming skills that I probably would have never acquired just from high school or university. I dropped out of university after the first year because I was constantly working on my server, trying to fix bugs and develop new systems. I'm currently working as a full-time .NET backend developer, and this would have never been possible if I hadn't discovered the private server emulation community. While building my server, I also learned how to work with various other programming languages like PHP, slowly becoming a web developer, and currently having four launched projects. None of these would have been possible if I hadn't risked it all by opening a World of Warcraft private server.

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Create a Private Server to Launch for Public and Profits

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!!!ATTENTION!!! I am not recommending in any way to open a World of Warcraft private server for the public, especially for profits. This violates the terms of use of the actual game and could lead to serious actions against you. Do it at your own risk!

According to ActivePlayer.io, in 2024, the average monthly player count on Blizzard's public World of Warcraft servers is around 8 million active players, with roughly over 4.5 million active subscriptions. This shows that there is still a decent player base who may be looking to experience expansions and custom mechanics they may never see on the public World of Warcraft servers.

Even if the player base has declined over the years, there is still a lot of room for Private Servers. The majority of active subscribers have at least once played on a private server. Major servers have managed to have the game under control even better than Blizzard, as they were only focusing on their current expansion and the custom-coded source they had plenty of time for major improvements. All it took was a small team of developers who knew the game mechanics. If you believe you have the skills to open a private server and offer constant support and updates, it is worth opening it because there will always be players interested in trying it out once they get bored with public servers.

Based on the fact that most, if not all, private servers have a donation service in place, it's clear that there is profit to be made out of a World of Warcraft Private Server. This profit depends on what services you are selling and how popular the server is/will be. Usually, Custom Fun Servers make huge profits by selling custom items for a ridiculous amount of money, while Blizzlike servers have shops for vanity items, mounts, and even BiS gear.

Create a Private Server for the High Variety of Game Styles

It is basically impossible to please everyone. There are players who like to grind and farm items to get the BIS gear, but there are also players who would like to see more soloable content, and there are players who like having tons of mechanics and ways to gather more powers, and there are players who like a basic stats system and balance in PVP or PVE. Blizzard can never please everyone, and here's where private servers have the main purpose. There are various server styles from basic increased XP rates to max level 255 fun Wrath of The Lich King, I'm specifying WOTLK in particular because of the Talent Tree system. This was the main purpose of max level 255 servers: to allow players to use all talents. From Vanilla to Dragonflight, you can experience various types of gaming styles depending on what are your content preferences.

If you're a big fan of highly customized private servers, one very unique aspect we'll never see on public servers is the endless customization options. For example, the ARAC (All Race All Class) system. If you ever dreamed of playing your favorite race but the preferred class/race combination was not possible, well, this is achievable on many private servers. There are a lot of private servers offering this feature. You can even find custom classes like Necromancer and races like Taunka, Tuskaar, Skeleton, and Naga, that were never meant to be playable but some of these races are still present in the game data files. This is a huge factor that differentiates private servers from retail servers.

List of the most common World of Warcraft private server types:

  • Blizzlike

    These servers try to replicate the default game style and sometimes manage to even surpass Blizzard in fixing bugs due to the fact that they are only focusing on the current expansion content, while Blizzard seems to be more focused on releasing new expansions rather than fixing the actual broken content.

  • Fun Servers

    These servers are often known as instant max level, starting with your character equipped. Mostly based on grinding currencies to advance to better gear, for example, you start with Furious Gear equipped and you have to fight your way up in battlegrounds, arenas, or various raids and dungeons to buy the next tier sets. They usually offer custom-created vendors that sell the items for custom currencies or even default tokens and points achievable through custom methods, usually awarded for defeating creatures or players. There are various servers offering systems like killstreaks in Battlegrounds. The killstreak system often awards players with extra honor points, kill tokens, or even buffs that offer players a significant advantage in the fight.

  • Custom Fun Servers

    These servers are heavily customized offering custom tier sets, custom scenarios for grinding gear, or often offering a ridiculous amount of stats. Most of the time focused on PVE while PVP is hardly unbalanced.

  • Heavily Custom Servers

    These servers managed to basically create a new game using the base World of Warcraft files. Here I'm subjectively talking about Project Ascension with their Classless Realms and Project Shinobi Story who turned World of Warcraft into World of Naruto. These servers are so heavily modified that you can barely tell they are born from a World of Warcraft source.

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Create a Private Server to Explore the Hidden Treasures

Blizzard developed a lot of things in the background, things you can only access using gamemaster powers or altering the game files. These things consist of hidden inaccessible zones, legendary items that were never obtainable, probably the most famous item that was rumored to be added in-game years ago is Frostmourne, the legendary soul eater sword. The game archives are huge, and who knows what else you can find and play with by creating your own private server. When it comes to zones, Blizzard left a huge chunk of maps that were under development for a long period. They were supposed to become the Emerald Dream but that map has never been opened to the public however it was still accessible on a private server with a couple of modifications to the data files. Many Easter eggs were also discovered with the help of private servers. I've compiled a list of Easter eggs found over the years from various sources here, World of Warcraft Easter Eggs, A huge list of Hidden Treasure Trove of Nostalgia

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Create a Private Server to Deliver Unique Mechanics

Once you have your source set up, considering you understand the code and you have decent programming skills, you can create various scripts that can make the difference from a basic private server to a private server worth playing. Even with a low player base, you can create mechanics that will engage players in wanting to play. In my case, I built a unique equipment upgrading script, a blood marking mechanic that was rewarding players when fighting against custom creatures, and a personal soul stone they were able to upgrade. This stone was offering various buffs based on its level as well as unique visual effects. There are endless possibilities to customize a private server all it takes is your imagination and a good team of developers for each field, source, data files, and database.

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Before making this step, you must ask yourself, why do I want to open a private server? What are my intentions? Owning a server is not as easy as it looks, it involves a lot of effort. You have to have some strong social skills in order to be able to mitigate disputes in your community. If you want to launch it for the public, you have to have financial skills to know how to manage your server budget in order to be able to pay the monthly costs as well as assume the other legal risks that may occur. You need a lot of nerves to withstand all the blackmail you will receive from various toxic players and all the threats. If it is to open the server just for learning purposes, I strongly suggest doing so, you can't even imagine how much you can learn from the sources. If you liked this article, you can read the other articles in this series from the links below:

  1. World of Warcraft Private Servers Phenomenon
  2. Why do World of Warcraft Private Servers fail ?

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